Belarusian sex worker alleges Trump-Russia tie without proof

A Belarusian woman jailed in Thailand for offering sex lessons without a work permit says she has a narrative to tell involving the Kremlin, Russian billionaires and even the president of the United States.

Anastasia Vashukevich, whose extraordinary claims and racy selfies have propelled her to internet reputation in recent weeks, told The Associated Press from a police van Wednesday that she dreads for her life, and wants to exchange information on alleged Russian ties to Donald Trump’s campaign for her own personal safety. But she refused for now to offer any such evidence, and it’s not clear if she has any.

Vashukevich’s story offers a glimpse into the shady world of Russian oligarchs. Trump’s one-time campaign administrator, Paul Manafort, also had ties to that world through his consulting work for one of those oligarchs. Manafort has been indicted on money-laundering charges related to his overseas consulting run by special counseling Robert Mueller. But Mueller has offered no proof that Manafort connected his Russian contacts to Trump’s campaign or helped Russia meddle in the U.S. election.

That has not stopped Vashukevich from claiming that she has such evidence as she faces possible deportation back to Russia.

Vashukevich shot to fame in early February when Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin’s top foes, published an investigation depicting on Vashukevich’s social media posts indicating corrupted links between billionaire Oleg Deripaska and a top Kremlin official, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko. The report featured video from Deripaska’s yacht in 2016, when Vashukevich claims she was having an affair with him.

Russians have focused on the relationship between Deripaska and Prikhodko. But now Vashukevich says — so far without proof — that she can link the Kremlin to Trump and his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who worked for Deripaska a decade before Trump hired him. Manafort has been indicted on money-laundering charges in special attorney Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election but Mueller has offered no evidence so far in his investigation that Manafort helped Russia in the U.S. election.

Vashukevich’s links to Deripaska do offer a glimpse into some of the shady associations that surround many Russian oligarchs.

Even Navalny told the AP on Wednesday that he has “certain doubts” that Vashukevich has any evidence about alleged direct ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.

“I think such statements are induce because of fears for her own life because they have been detained in Thailand, ” he said, adding he believes her dreads are well-founded.

Navalny’s report constructed no claim that Vashukevich knew anything about a Russian campaign to influence the U.S. election, and she has rendered no proof that she does.

As for her claims of Deripaska’s ties to the Kremlin official, Deripaska has called them nonsense when Navalny alleged them.

In an emailed response Feb. 8, Deripaska’s spokesman said: “These scandalous and mendacious assumptions are driven by sensationalism and we entirely refute these outrageous false allegations in the strongest possible way.”

Deripaska sued Vashukevich and her “sex guru, ” Alexander Kirillov, for breach of privacy. The Russian court enforced an injunction, and communications providers blocked access to Navalny’s website for several weeks until he deleted the videos.

A Feb. 15 statement from Deripaska said: “Mr. Deripaska’s claim is to protect his right to privacy and has nothing to do with any political fight between Mr. Navalny and his political opponents.”

A request for commentary Wednesday from the Russian government went unanswered.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for special attorney Robert Mueller, declined to comment Wednesday.

On Sunday, Vashukevich was arrested along with nine other people, including Kirillov, in the Thai resort of Pattaya while giving sex lessons to Russian tourists. Immigration Police Maj. Satawat Srirattanapong said the 10 were charged with working without work permits, and one with having an expired visa.

Vashukevich said she won’t give details of what she knows until she is guaranteed she won’t be sent to Russia.

“I can say something only when I will be in a safe place, sorry, because I am worried about my life, ” Vashukevich told the AP from a police van that was taking the detainees from Pattaya to Bangkok’s Immigration Detention Center.

Vashukevich had earlier posted a video on Instagram, also apparently built while in custody in Pattaya, addressed to “Dear American media.”

“I didn’t want to tell you about many things. Now they’re trying to lock us up, ” she said. “But now I’m ready to put together all the pieces of the puzzle that you have been missing, and back it up with audio and video regarding the ties of our esteemed lawmakers with Manafort, Trump and all this buzz around the U.S. election. I know a lot.”

Trump has repeatedly denied that he colluded with Russia to influence the U.S. election.

Kirillov, the “sex guru” known in Russia for staging high-profile sexual happenings that usually involve sending scantily clothed women out in public, told AP from the police van that the Russian government was behind their arrests.

“Political reasons. We know so much. So that’s why they want us to go to Russia, ” he said. “We think that in a few days, maybe even today, they will send us to Russia, very fast, and I think you will lose us, and never consider us more.”

Kirillov and Vashukevich have both recorded specific activities on social media, with racy photographs and videos taken in many countries. One of the tamer photos on Kirillov’s feed proves him posing in front of Trump Tower in New York. Kirillov, who Thai police say is Russian, posts under the pseudonym Alex Lesley. Vashukevich, who is from Belarus, uses the name Nastya Rybka.

They were arrested in a hotel meeting room in Pattaya, a seaside resort noted for its sexuality industry and popularity with Russian visitors. The lessons were attended by about 40 Russian tourists, many wearing T-shirts bearing the English words “Sex animator” with an arrow pointing to the wearer’s crotch. Thai news media quoth police as saying that the meeting was raided because hotel personnel reported hearing strange sounds.

Police Maj. Satawat said all 10 apprehended people have had their visas rescinded and will be detained at the Immigration Detention Center in Bangkok until the charges of running illegally are resolved. He said police have up to 48 days to process the cases before handing them to prosecutors. If they plead guilty, he said, their cases could end without trial and they could leave the country.

Canceling a visa ordinarily allows a country to expel a person without having to go through the legal process of extradition.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied Wednesday that the Russians’ case had anything to do with a visit to Thailand by Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev. He said Patrushev often makes overseas visits and that they are arranged in advance.

“It’s ludicrous to link this to the detention of Russian nationals in Thailand, ” he said.

Navalny said given recent events — including a cocaine bust at the Russian Embassy in Argentina — he wasn’t so sure.

“I don’t know what to think, ” Navalny told the AP. “Shows like ‘Homeland’ begin to look solely realistic when you look at what is happening in Russia now. We believed the scriptwriters constructed the most impossible things up, but in Russia the most absurd things are possible.”


Vasilyeva reported from Moscow. Associated Press writer Grant Peck in Bangkok contributed.

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